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Supreme Court Clinic: Employment & Civil Rights

The Clinic represents employees claiming discrimination under a wide range of statutes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The Clinic’s civil-rights work ranges from disability discrimination and retaliation by employers, to child-support litigation and the right to counsel, to excessive-force claims and immunity of counties, cities, and officers.

In Yuma Anesthesia Medical Services v. Fleming (2010), a medical practice withdrew its job offer to an anesthesiologist when it learned he had sickle-cell anemia.  Represented by a top Supreme Court law firm, the medical practice asked the Court to review whether the Rehabilitation Act even protects independent contractors from disability discrimination.  Representing the anesthesiologist, the Clinic successfully opposed certiorari, distinguishing the cases in the circuit split and offering a new understanding of how the Rehabilitation Act applies to employment cases.

In Turner v. Rogers (2011), a custodial mother had been seeking child support for eight years from a nonsupporting father (often called a “deadbeat dad”).  The father claimed that the government first had to give him a free lawyer before he could be forced to pay child support by being held in civil contempt, even though the mother had no lawyer.  The Clinic, representing the mother, persuaded all nine Justices that fathers have no automatic right to free lawyers when mothers without lawyers sue them for child supportThe Court accepted the Clinic’s main argument that giving a free lawyer to only one side would tilt the playing field and delay support payments to the mothers and children who need them fast.

In Levin v. United States (2013), a navy doctor performed eye surgery on a veteran after he had allegedly withdrawn his consent to the operation, injuring his eyesight.  The lower courts held that sovereign immunity barred the suit against the United States, reading the statutory waiver of sovereign immunity narrowly.  The Court appointed James Feldman as amicus curiae to brief and argue the case in support of Mr. Levin’s position, a “great honor.”  Feldman and the Clinic carefully parsed the interaction of the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Gonzalez Act, persuading all nine Justices of the Court to hold unanimously that sovereign immunity does not bar lawsuits by victims of medical battery against the United States.  The Court’s opinion praised Feldman’s effective performance and “well stated arguments.”